Sources of Support for SMEs
Some of these sources of support were included in a publication issued by the UK Intellectual Property Office in March 2013, entitled "Business Support for SMEs – Maximising the Value of Intellectual Property”.
The sources of support listed below are grouped in three categories: funding and general business support, tax incentives and general information on intellectual property (IP).
Funding and General Business Support
The "Business is Great" campaign was launched in November 2013 and is part of the UK Government's drive to encourage entrepreneurship. The campaign's purpose is to publicise the sources of financial support, advice and guidance that are available for small businesses.
This is the UK government's flagship programme for supporting SMEs with high growth potential. It encompasses IP audits. More information on the scheme can be found here.
The Technology Strategy Board (TSB)
The TSB is a public body operating at arm's length from the UK Government. Its role is to stimulate innovation and thereby accelerate economic growth.
The TSB provides a number of business support initiatives and financial incentives to companies in the SME sector, including Catapult Centres, The SMART Initiative and Innovation Vouchers.Each of these is described briefly below.
Catapult Centres have been established in the following areas: high value manufacturing; cell therapy; offshore renewable energy; satellite applications; connected digital economy; future cities; and transport systems. For each such Catapult Centre, the goal is to enable specialised UK companies to work together on research and development of new products, through the provision of concentrated expertise, access to cutting edge equipment and specialist facilities to develop and test ideas.
The SMART Initiative is a scheme offering grants to SMEs to engage in R&D projects from which successful new products, processes and services could emerge. Three types of grant are available: (a) proof of market (for initial planning, market research and testing); (b) proof of concept (for technical feasibility studies, basic testing and prototyping); and (c) prototype development (for trials and demonstrations). Maximum grants available range from £25,000 for proof of market grants to £250,000 for prototype development grants, with the initiative typically funding approximately 50% of the total project costs.
Innovation Vouchers are grants of up to £5,000 designed to encourage businesses to look outside their current network for new knowledge that can help them to grow and develop. The grant enables a company to work with a supplier for the first time and is used to pay for specialist knowledge or technology transfer from that supplier. This can include IP advice.
Biomedical Catalyst Scheme
The Biomedical Catalyst is a TSB programme operated in conjunction with the Medical Research Council (MRC). The programme offers £180 million worth of Life Sciences funding to innovative UK SMEs and academic researchers looking to develop solutions to healthcare challenges.
According to the TSB, the “Biomedical Catalyst is an integrated translational funding programme that can support innovative ideas - from any sector or discipline - that demonstrate the potential to provide significant positive healthcare and economic impact.”
Three categories of grant are available which support the development of healthcare ideas from concept to commercialisation. They are as follows:
- Feasibility/Confidence in Concept Award;
- Early Stage Award; and
- Late Stage Award.
The Biomedical Catalyst round 4 competition will accept business led applications for Early and Late Stage Awards from 29 July 2013.
If an application is led by an academic, it is necessary to apply on the MRC website:
If an application is led by a SME, the application should be made on the TSB website:
Both of these websites provide additional information on the Biomedical Catalyst programme.
Capital for Enterprise
This is a fund management company that is wholly owned by the Department for Business Skills and Innovation and provides venture capital and loans for SMEs. Capital for Enterprise is intended to be integrated into the UK Government's new "Business Bank”, which was announced in 2012 and is scheduled to be fully operational by Autumn 2014.
The Community Development Finance Association (CDFA)
The CDFA is an association representing Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs), of which there are approximately 60 across the UK. These Institutions provide financial support to small businesses who may find it difficult to obtain similar support from the mainstream banking sector.
The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)
The SEIS was introduced by the UK Government in 2011 and provides substantial personal tax benefits in exchange for making investments in early-stage companies. In order to be eligible for an SEIS investment, the company must have fewer than 25 employees, its trade must be no more than two years old, the total value of its assets must be less than £200,000 and it must trade in an approved sector (which excludes, for example, finance and investment). Qualifying companies can raise up to a total of £150,000 in SEIS investments.
The Design Leadership Programme
This is a coaching and mentoring service that focuses on the use of innovative design to grow a business. It is run by the Design Council and the cost of participation is between £2,000 and £15,000. In addition, each year a number of subsidies are available from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Passport to Export
This is a service run by the government's UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department. It is open to new or inexperienced exporters. The service aims to support the growth of a company's international trade capacity by way of an initial assessment process and subsequent face-to-face training programme.
The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS)
The MAS is an agency backed by the UK Government that provides manufacturing business support for companies in England. A free business review is available, from which an action plan is developed. Subsequent support with the actions identified in this plan is then available, with up to 50% matched funding of from £300-£3,000.
The Patent Box
This initiative provides a means to reduce the rate of UK Corporation Tax payable on profits derived from patented inventions. Click here for more information.
R&D Tax Credits
These provide UK Corporation Tax relief for companies engaged in scientific research and development programmes. R&D tax credits allow companies to deduct up to 175% of qualifying expenditure on R&D activities when calculating their profit for tax purposes. As an alternative SMEs can, under certain circumstances, surrender this tax relief to claim tax credits payable in cash.
Whilst there is no set formula for calculating the value of your IP as every invention is, by definition, unique, the UK Intellectual Property Office’s website offers some helpful advice on the subject and explains in detail the most commonly used valuing methods.
General Information on Intellectual Property (IP)
The Intellectual Property Office websiteprovides some general introductory information and guidance on intellectual property matters.
Advisory services administered by the UK Intellectual Property Office include Patent Information Centres, also known as Patent Libraries or PATLIBs, a nationwide network of centres providing access to IP information.
The UK Intellectual Property Office also runs as series of courses and seminars aimed at promoting IP awareness, many of which are free to attend. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ip4b/ip4b-uk/ip4b-uk-learn.htm
One resource that may be of particular interest is the "IP Healthcheck”. This is a free online tool that generates a basic report on intellectual properties issues that may be relevant to your business, based on your answers to a series of simple questions.